I really think it is too early for web-only OS. Everyone I know regularly uses at least one local application like MS Office, iTunes or Skype and carries at least one hardware device that they connect to their laptop. For them paying a few hundred more for to have a true mini-computer is worth it. They wouldnt buy a Chrome netbook even if it was $50. For them portable computing is all about having a miniaturized desktop, which means more than a miniaturized browser.
I think the same goes for the vast majority.
On Amazon the MS Office suite has always been a top seller for both pc and mac. As much as the tech sites talk about google docs Im just not seeing it used in the real world. Photoshop elements is also a top seller at Amazon. What will ChromeOS offer as an equivalent? At least Moblin netbooks will come with a photo editor.
As it stands I can really only see Chrome being useful for Grandmas that use the web for email and maybe check the weather. I know people have advocated Linux for Grandmas in the past but I always thought it was a bad idea given how often Linux distros will break working hardware with an update. ChromeOS has a neat feature in that it will re-image itself if there is a problem. It will also be better tied to the hardware so I can see someone getting it for Grammy.
I also don’t understand why Linux advocates think this is a revolutionary move against Microsoft. Google is providing a browser on a netbook. How is this any more of a threat than Moblin? Because a billion dollar company is funding it? So what, Intel is backing Moblin.
But more importantly MS can provide a browser with Windows Mobile and offer access to the same Google docs and provide local applications as well. At this point I would be more than willing to pay a premium for Windows Mobile over ChromeOS if it meant local storage and applications. Hell I would be willing to pay a premium for Moblin. Its just too early for an OS that is locked into the web. Internet access isnt ubiquitous enough and even when we are connected we still run local apps and access local files.
So yes I can see this being useful for Grandma but the vast majority will find it too restrictive. I have heard some suggest that it would be useful for children but without parental controls it will be a difficult sale. Firefox at least has KidZui which means it can work with Moblin, but a lot of parents will just pick a netbook with Windows 7 since they are already familiar with parental controls in Windows.
I really think Google is making a mistake by pushing people towards web apps without providing local alternative applications. Those expecting a revolution from this are not going to get it. Consumers are not going to like hearing that they have to be connected to the internet if they want their portable computer to be useful.